INDIANAPOLIS — Zach Cook can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel — but he’s not there yet.
Cook inched one step closer to a state title on the first night of the IHSAA Boys Swimming and Diving State Finals on Friday at the IU Natatorium at IUPUI. Seeded third in the 100-yard butterfly, Cook won his heat in 48.61 — a lifetime best — and finished second overall to make today’s finals.
Cook, a junior, will be seeded behind Matthew Jerden of Bloomington South. The top three competitors in the event are separated by just .50 seconds.
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“It was good; I dropped time and am happy with how I raced,” Cook said. “I’ve seen the other guys at camps and meets and know them pretty well.”
According to Greenfield-Central head coach Mark Logan, the race between Cook, Jerden and Zionsville’s Andrew Schuler will come down to who recovers best overnight.
“Zach has a race on his hands, but he is a racer,” Logan said. “The turnaround is much different than the sectional.”
The Cougars have never had a state champion in swimming or diving, making Cook’s fifth-place finishes in both the 100-yard butterfly and 100-yard backstroke at state last season the best in program history.
Cook was fifth again in the 100-yard backstroke to make the finals today. He finished in 50.53, which is .66 seconds off the leader’s time.
Greenfield-Central’s 200-yard medley relay team, consisting of Cook, senior Allen Forbes and juniors Ethan Kile and Chris Joven, finished third (1:34.75) in heat four and eighth overall to advance to today’s final. The Cougars were seeded at 1:35.15.
“They all did what they needed to do and set themselves up nice for tomorrow,” Logan said.
Cook made up considerable ground in the third leg (butterfly) of the relay and kept Greenfield-Central from finishing in fourth or fifth in their heat.
Joven also swam in the 100-yard freestyle, finishing seventh overall to make the finals.
He just missed the cut in the 50-yard freestyle by .01 seconds.
“There is still room for improvement for Chris,” Logan said. “He had some trouble in the turns.”
Mt. Vernon’s 200-yard freestyle relay team, which featured senior Bryce Gray, sophomore Kaylen Morgan and juniors Tim Broaders and Joshua Blackburn, finished 28th overall in their final swim this season.
For Gray, who will study engineering at Cincinnati University, the meet was a great way to end his swim career.
“I was looking in the stands and saw people I’ve been on college visits with and trained with,” Gray said. “It was a good way way to end.”
Mt. Vernon head coach Dixon Tierney said the three returning swimmers gained valuable experience for next season.
“We did well; it is hard to swim fast two weeks in a row,” Tierney said. “Hopefully, the three guys coming back will be faster next year (at state).”
Forbes joined Cook in the 100-yard backstroke and finished 16th overall to make the consolation finals. He entered the meet seeded 26th in the event.
Also for the Cougars, Kile finished 26th overall in the 200-yard individual medley (1:57.93) and 22nd in the 100-yard breaststroke (58.98). He teamed with the same individuals, Cook, Joven and Forbes, in the 400-yard freestyle relay, which finished ninth overall to just miss the finals.
Greenfield-Central freshman Samuel Jennings was 29th in the 200-yard freestyle and 30th in the 500-yard freestyle in his first state meet.
The diving competition, which includes Greenfield-Central junior Ben Rader, will begin at 9 a.m. today with the consolation and final rounds of swimming and diving to begin at 1 p.m.